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What is Technical Debt in Software Development and How to Manage It?

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  • Difficulty Level : Easy
  • Last Updated : 11 Dec, 2020
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Technical debt is the concept of delaying or omitting work to complete a project or reach a goal faster, but which also causes more rework in the end. It’s like building a house without a complete set of blueprints. Construction might finish sooner, but the house will have significant structural issues that will take more time and more money to fix later. 


Technical debt is generally identified in the Software development domain when the developers make sacrifices in system design and jump right into coding. It refers to a variety of bugs, missing documentation, or simply outdated legacy code. Just like financial debt, technical debt accrues interest, the longer the debt or backlog of ignored issues builds up, the more costly it becomes to rectify. But perfect project design and implementation with no elements of technical debt are rare, even when doing everything right. 

Types of Technical debt 

1. Planned Technical debt – Planned technical debt occurs when teams knowingly want a fast but imperfect implementation, either to build a presence in the rapidly developing market or collect customer feedback. However, teams hardly have the time to go back and redesign how they planned earlier. A good example of planned technical debt is a CRM development Company that has to launch a product within a very short period. Therefore, for agile implementation of the project, companies decide to skip writing unit tests and write the tests after the release.

2. Unintentional Technical debt – Inadvertent/Unintentional technical debt happens by accident usually occurs when developers don’t understand market requirements or how to design an architecture to meet market requirements. Poor management can also cause debt. For instance, if inexperienced team members are given complex tasks, and management doesn’t conduct reviews that might catch problems. Technical debt can be avoided by thoroughly comprehending market requirements and decision consequences, as well as with enough supervision throughout the process. Unintentional technical debt refers to errors due to poor practices such as bad coding or differently designed components throughout the application. Training, static analysis, and reviews are some good engineering practices to prevent unintentional technical debt.

3. Unavoidable Technical debt –There are situations in which technical debt is not within the control of the development teams and organization as a whole. It usually covers changes in the industry or broad technology shifts. Good examples are upgrades to third-party systems, advanced CRM development services, the introduction of new programming languages, or entire new devices never seen before. In order to avoid the presence of this technical debt, organizations need to design and implement uncomplicated systems and understandable codebase. In this case, if advanced implementations are required, it will prevent rework and hence save cost for further product development.

How to manage Technical Debt in Software development?

There are mainly two causes behind it: Emerging digital forces and limited time & constrained resources. Organizations are uniformly acknowledging these digital forces, whether it is by smooth transitioning to the cloud, adopting a new SaaS Development Services, replacing a legacy system, or incorporating the data behind all these dissimilar systems and applications. These digital forces are developing an augmentation of projects for IT teams. To complete projects on time and meet the needs of the business, IT is taking shortcuts as more projects are arising. These shortcuts become IT preference because they are intensely constrained – both in terms of time and the number of resources available. To understand & manage technical debt is a crucial concern for many organizations. 

The productive ways to manage Technical Debt in Software development are as follows:

1. Calculate Technical Debt – Top-down and Bottom-up are the two approaches to calculate technical debt. The top-down approach enables the IT staff to calculate the technical debt related to IT infrastructure, architecture, processes, & integration. With this approach, IT people can calculate and address the incremental costs related to system hardware diversity. The bottom-up approach will help to identify the security, quality, and bugs in code. This method uses a code scanner to weigh coding anomalies.

2. Loop in the Developers – Developers are the best ones to determine valuable insights related to technical debt, which can help to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of planning and managing it effectively. The technical debt of a project can be managed by discussing the merits and demerits of it with Developers for long term flexibility and scalability.

3. Leverage better Data – To minimize the technical debt impacting software applications, the CIOs (senior technology executives inside an organization) need to have access to improved data. Many CIOs are powering their business with advanced tools like AI for analyzing codes and identifying anomalies and gaining in-depth visibility on the quality of software.

4. Employ Resources – Technical debt can never be managed unless Software development companies dedicate the required time and capacity to it. To address the concerns on Technical debt, CRM Development Company should employ time and resources as a part of the regular workflow rather than waiting to reach the breaking point.

5. Reframe Software Development strategy – The best way to deal with Technical debt is to reframe the strategy of developing software, reviewing the initial planning and development strategy, identifying weak points that forced the software development team to take on technical debt, and fill in the voids. The solution includes more frequent meetings with developers and stakeholders, the launch of new code standards, and the establishment of an efficient Technical debt tracking system.

6. Maintain a Knowledge base – To make the “repayment” of technical debt easier, it’s critically important to maintain documentation during the development process. Such digital documentation is known as a knowledge base that comprises various types of content (roadmap, code documentation, checklists, etc.) that team members can exchange. One of the considerable benefits of maintaining and asserting a knowledge base is that at any stage of the development, software engineers can effortlessly access any information related to the project and solve challenging situations more efficiently.

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